Pontiff Arrives in Malta As a Pilgrim

Notes Role of Providence in St. Paul’s Shipwreck

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LUQA, Malta, APRIL 17, 2010 (Zenit.org).- While some may see St. Paul’s shipwreck off the shores of Malta to be a mere accident, Benedict XVI suggests it was the work of divine Providence.

The Pope said this today upon arriving in Malta at the beginning of his two-day trip to the island nation.

During the welcoming ceremony at the Malta International Airport in Luqa, the Pontiff noted the reason for his visit is one of a pilgrim celebrating the 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul’s shipwreck off the island of Malta.

«Some might consider St. Paul’s arrival in Malta by means of a humanly unforeseen event to be a mere accident of history,» he reflected. «The eyes of faith, however, enable us to recognize here the workings of divine Providence.»

«On account of their geographical position, these islands have been of great strategic importance on more than one occasion,» the Holy Father said. «You continue to play a valuable role in the ongoing debates on European identity, culture and policy.»

Benedict XVI continued: «Malta has much to contribute to questions as diverse as tolerance, reciprocity, immigration, and other issues crucial to the future of this continent.

«Your nation should continue to stand up for the indissolubility of marriage as a natural institution as well as a sacramental one, and for the true nature of the family, just as it does for the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death and for the proper respect owed to religious freedom in ways that bring authentic integral development to individuals and society.»

Noting the island nation’s geographical, cultural and even linguistic nearness to the East, the Pope encouraged the nation to «serve as a bridge of understanding between the peoples, cultures and religions which surround the Mediterranean.»

«Much has still to be done to build relationships of genuine trust and fruitful dialogue, and Malta is well placed to hold out the hand of friendship to her neighbors to north and south, to east and west,» the Holy Father added.

«The Maltese people, enlightened for almost two millennia by the teachings of the Gospel and continually fortified by their Christian roots, are rightly proud of the indispensable role that the Catholic faith has played in their nation’s development,» he said.

The Pope added that the «the beauty of our faith is expressed in various and complementary ways here, not least in the lives of holiness which have led Maltese to give of themselves for the good of others. Among these we must include Father George Preca, whom I was pleased to canonize just three years ago (3 June, 2007).»

This is the third visit of a Pope to the 98% Catholic country. Pope John Paul II was the first Pontiff to visit Malta in 1990, and he returned in 1991.

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: www.zenit.org/article-28939?l=english

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